Over the last year, we have seen volatility in the healthcare industry overall, and Medicare Advantage (“MA”) and Medicare Part D plans (together, “Plans”) have not been immune. Particularly because of their risk adjustment payment models, and metrics by which they are measured, it was unclear how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) would respond.
Continue Reading CMS to the Rescue for MA and Part D Plans – Rate Announcement Includes Significant Increase in Plan Payments for 2022

It’s Day 2 of the J.P. Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference at its finest – looking closely at healthcare inequities, strategic business shifts and killer robots, all in the same day! (Yes, we did say killer robots and it’s your reward for reading all the way to the end of this article).
Continue Reading Day 2 Notes for the 39th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, 2021

On Friday, April 5, 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) announced that it had finalized policies allowing Medicare Advantage plans (“MA Plans”) to include additional telehealth benefits in their basic benefit packages starting in 2020.  The final rule implementing the changes (the “Final Rule”) will be published in the Federal Register on April 16, 2019. An advance copy of the Final Rule is available here.
Continue Reading CMS Expands Telehealth Benefits under Medicare Advantage

Dual Special Needs Plans

This part 6 of our 7 part series focuses on the provisions regarding dual special needs plans (“D-SNPs”) released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) in the proposed rule issued on November 1, 2018 (the “Proposed Rule”). D-SNPs enroll individuals who are entitled to both Medicare and medical assistance from a state under Medicaid. States cover some Medicare costs, depending on the particular state and the member’s eligibility. As reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation in “Medicare Advantage 2017 Spotlight: Enrollment Market Update,” Gretchen Jacobson, Anthony Damico, Tricia Neuman, and Marsha Gold ( June 6, 2017), enrollment in special needs plans increased from 2.1 million in 2016 to 2.3 million in 2017 – and 81% of members of these plans are enrolled in D-SNPs.
Continue Reading Blog Series Part 6: CMS Proposed Rule on Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, Medicaid Fee-For-Service and Medicaid Managed Care Programs for Years 2020 and 2021

Quality Improvement Programs

The proposed rule issued November 1, 2018 (the “Proposed Rule”) by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) includes two technical changes to 42 C.F.R. Part 422. The first change involves a clarification regarding the accreditation “deeming” standard for Medicare Advantage (“MA”) quality improvement programs. The second change, also related to accreditation, simply proposes the deletion of language regarding the soon to be eliminated requirement that MA organizations (“MAOs”) conduct quality improvement projects.
Continue Reading Blog Series Part 4: CMS Proposed Rule on Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, Medicaid Fee-For-Service, and Medicaid Managed Care Programs for Years 2020 and 2021

Requirements for MA Plans Offering Additional Telehealth Benefits

As part of the proposed rule issued November 1, 2018 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) regarding updates to the Medicare Advantage (“MA”) and Medicare prescription drug benefit programs, CMS addressed expanding the ability of MA plans to offer telehealth benefits to their enrollees. The proposed telehealth regulations come on the heels of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 and implement § 50323 related to “additional telehealth benefits.”
Continue Reading Blog Series Part 2: CMS Proposed Rule on Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, Medicaid Fee-For-Service, and Medicaid Managed Care Programs for Years 2020 and 2021

On October 26, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released for viewing a proposed rule that includes significant changes for Medicare Advantage organizations (“MAOs”), Part D prescription drug plan sponsors (“PDPs”), Medicaid managed care organizations (“MCOs”), and the providers and suppliers that contract with them (the “Proposed Rule”). CMS anticipates that the Proposed Rule will be formally published in the Federal Register on November 1, 2018.
Continue Reading Blog Series: CMS Proposed Rule on Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, Medicaid Fee-For-Service, and Medicaid Managed Care Programs for Years 2020 and 2021

On April 4, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) finalized guidance and policies for the Medicare Advantage program that will expand the supplemental benefits afforded to beneficiaries to include items and services that address certain “social determinants of health” (“SDOH”). SDOH refers to a wide range of factors and conditions that are known to have an impact on healthcare, ranging from socioeconomic status, education and employment, to one’s physical environment and access to healthcare. Previously, CMS did not allow an item or service to be eligible as a supplemental benefit if the primary purpose was for daily maintenance. CMS’ reinterpretation of the statute to expand the scope of the primarily health-related supplemental benefit standard is an important step in encouraging value-based care.
Continue Reading Medicare Advantage to Address Social Determinants of Health: An Important Step for Value-Based Care

Medicare Part C and Part D Star Ratings are used by CMS to measure the quality of and reflect the experiences of beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage (“MA”) and Prescription Drug Plans (“PDPs”). Below is a summary of CMS’ proposed enhancements to the 2019 Star Ratings set forth in the 2019 Final Call Letter (issued by CMS on April 2, 2018) , as well as possible enhancements to the 2020 Star Ratings.
Continue Reading Star Ratings and Future Measurement Concepts in the CY 2019 Final Call Letter

On Friday, February 9, 2018, President Trump signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (the “Budget”), a two-year budget which, in significant part, made substantial revisions to Medicare, including the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. Such revisions include:

i. the addition of non-medical services (e.g., home-delivered meals, transportation to and from a physician’s office, etc.) and telehealth services to the range of MA-covered services that an MA plan (Plan) can offer to its members;

ii. a significant increase in federal funding for services provided by federally qualified health centers (FQHCs);

iii. disbanding the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a board comprised of presidential appointees whose sole authority and responsibility was to cut Medicare costs and expenses; and

iv. an increase in the discounts that pharmaceutical companies must give seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D drug plans by making the so-called “doughnut hole” disappear in 2019.

The above Medicare-related changes were part of the “Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017” (the “Act”) – a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate last October and was incorporated into the Budget during the final throes of Budget negotiations.

The following includes a more in-depth discussion of each of the Budget items described above.
Continue Reading The Bipartisan Budget Act Boosts Medicare: Flexibility and Financing for Healthcare Plans and Providers

On October 5, 2017, the Honorable Judge John Walter of the United States District Court, Central District of California, granted the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Medicare Advantage (“MA”) Federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) case of United States of America ex rel. Swoben v. Scan Health Plan, et al. (CV 09-5013-JFW (JEMx)) (the “Swoben Case”) (brought by qui tam relator James M. Swoben and joined by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”)). [1]

Although the ruling was undoubtedly well received by UnitedHealthcare (“UHC”), its parent company, UnitedHealth Group Inc. (“UHG”), and the other Swoben Case defendants, the defendants’ happiness with the dismissal may have been tempered because the ruling gives the DOJ an opportunity to amend and refile its complaint with the Court. Given the DOJ’s recent history of aggressively pursuing cases of potential fraud in the MA space, it is very likely that the DOJ will amend and refile its complaint in the near future.
Continue Reading Alert: In a Surprise Decision Issued on October 5, 2017, Honorable John Walter, United States District Judge, Dismissed a Medicare Advantage Risk Adjustment Fraud Suit Against UnitedHealthcare